Ancient World /
Ancient area with its centre in Palestine, but throughout history having varying borders. Sometimes "Canaan" is used for all of modern Israel, Palestine, Jordan and Syria, sometimes for modern Israel and Palestine only. The modern term "Canaan" corresponds with the contemporary term used in both Egyptian and Phoenician writings.
The peoples of Canaan were of both pre-historic origin, as well as the result of numerous immigrations. With the Canaanites as the core, the peoples of today's Middle East developed, both the peoples calling themselves Arabs and the original Jews.
The main immigrations to Canaan during the time the term "Canaan" was used, was the large group belonging to the Amorite people coming from the northeast. Second in importance were the Hyksos and the Hurrians both coming from the north.
In the centuries before and after 1000 BCE, the Israelites took over Canaan politically and culturally. The Canaanite population was assimilated into the Jewish states in the following centuries. Through this process, a distinction grew between the Canaanites and Phoenicians to the north 2 groups that had been more or less one before.
The languages of Canaan belonged to the Northwestern group of Semitic languages. Among these languages were Hebrew, Moabite, Phoenician and Punic (spoken the lands corresponding to modern Tunisia). The earliest form of recorded Canaanite is from the Tell el-Amarna letters, written to the Egyptian Pharaoh. Moabite was a language that was very close to Hebrew, and the inscriptions on the Moabite Stone can be interpreted on the basis of Old Testament grammar and vocabulary.
According to some theories, the Canaanites were the first people to have started using the alphabet, but according to other theories, this happened first in the Phoenician colony of Byblos.
About 7000-4000 BCE: Neolithic Period, with the first villages and towns.
About 4000-3000: Chalcolithic Age, with the introduction of pottery, copper and mud bricks for building houses.
About 3000-2000: Early Bronze Age, with the introduction of metals. It is from this period we have the oldest traces of a Semitic population in the area.
About 2000-1550: Middle Bronze Age, with the beginning of recorded history, and the immigration of the Amorites.
About 1550-1200: Late Bronze Age, where most of Canaan is under Egyptian control, but with many attacks from the Hittites in the north.
About 1400-1250: Hapiru tribes roam the area, groups that may be forerunners of the later Hebrew tribes.
Around 1250: Immigration of the Israelites from Egypt (see Moses).
Around 1180: Invasion of the Philistines, probably originally from Crete. The established a military and political coalition of the region.
Around 1000: The Israelites conquer the Philistines, and establish the kingdom of Israel in most of the core land of Canaan. From this time on, the term Canaan ceases to be used.